World in Conflict PC Review

2007 so far has been pretty good to Real-Time Strategy (RTS) fans. Earlier in the year people got their hands on Supreme Commander, after that the legendary character Kane came back with Command & Conquer 3 soon following. So now those big hitters have come and gone, what’s going to be next? World in Conflict might not have as much hype as the previous games mentioned, but it should be noted that it’s a fantastic RTS game that is going to get its name on the map, with a big attractive nuclear explosion to boot.

Set in 1989, World in Conflict is taking us through an alternative version of the Cold War, a “what if” scenario of the Soviet Union attacking the United States of America. The Soviet Union has already started a war in Europe. With the battle not looking so well for NATO, the United States has decided to send help across the ocean to them. After NATO gained back some ground in Europe, the war was slowly turning into a stalemate. The Soviet Union needs to do something to push the war in their favour. A surprise attack on the land of the free is what was decided. America, still having a lot of their forces in Europe, was unprepared and surprised at the commies arriving on their backyard. It’s up to you and your tactical prowess to help prevent this from happening.

Some people have debated to whether really class World in Conflict as a RTS, mainly because there’s no base building or resource gathering. Players are thrown into the thick of battle with a given amount of units. Reinforcements are available through set amount of reinforcement points or if a unit is destroyed. Destroyed units are converted back in to reinforcement points then added to your total slowly over time. The general gameplay is familiar to Real-Time Tactical games, such as Ground Control (Another Massive Entertainment series) and to some extent the Total War series. Removing base building/resource gathering gets rid of all the things that usually slow down the pace of RTS games. What’s left is a game that’s full of high speed adrenaline action; there really isn’t much time for tea breaks and scones in this game.

All this action means for lots of bullets, explosions and debris flying all over the place. Just to make things sweeter, the game is full of destructible buildings and vegetation, everything can be turned into lumps of rubble and doing so is just so satisfying. The game really pulls it off because of how it looks. People say that graphics aren’t important if the game is fun, but when it comes to things blowing up, everyone always dreams of a nice big bang, like a huge firework display. This is where World in Conflict comes in; it feeds your inner demolition man with extravagant explosions. The game is one of the prettiest looking RTS around, be it the units, surroundings or the special effects, it all comes together nicely. It’s fully appreciated when you set off your first nuclear bomb, watching everything waste away and getting covered in the smog of the aftermath; it never gets boring seeing it time and time again. The game uses Direct X 10 effects, so to get the game looking its best you’ll need a pretty beefy gaming PC. If you don’t then it’s not the end of the world as the game is pretty scalable, so even if you don’t have the best PC, the game will still look decent enough, even at the medium settings it looks nice, so roll on the nuclear explosions.

In the single player campaign you take control of a silent protagonist, Lieutenant Parker, a member of the United States Army. Parker is one of those characters that appear in games that want you to imagine what he’s like for yourself, you never see his face. When he is involved in cutscenes it’s either from his view or behind him, so you never know what he looks like, guess you should just imagine him with your face stuck on. At the start of the game, no face Parker witnesses the invasion fleet of the Soviet Union landing in Seattle. From there players will be fighting over USA, Europe and the Soviet Union. The single player campaign only has one story, which is from the United States Army prospective. The Soviets are only playable through the multiplayer side of the game. The story itself is full of Hollywood war movie clichés, yet it’s still interesting to watch what unfolds through artwork and in-game engine cutscenes. Alec Baldwin lends his voice as Parker, who narrates the story when the game loads a mission for the campaign.

The campaign story mode spans across 14 different missions. In typical RTS fashion, as you progress throughout the operations, better weaponry becomes available to you. As stated the game doesn’t have any management, so you start with a selected few units for that mission. Sometimes the commander in charge will supply you with some additional reinforcements so you can add to the starting line up. It’s this way of playing that gets your tactical brain thinking. The game never offers you with plenty of units. The section of armies you command is generally small, so you can cancel out any thought of calling in hundreds of heavy tanks to plough through The Red Army’s battalion. It’s all about tactics and survival as the campaign is more to do with withholding the enemy, rather than going all out on their arse and destroying everything. The game makes sure you don’t have to worry about covering the whole campaign map. This is down to Massive Entertainment sticking in a genius idea of the A.I. replacing areas of the level where you’ve successfully beaten an objective. The A.I companions come rolling along to take over the battle, fighting off the computer. They are not controllable, but their purpose is to make it look like there’s a big war going on, and you are just a small player taking part in it. It’s a great idea that is pulled off really well and is overwhelming to watch on the later missions.

Units themselves come with special abilities. They all have a purpose and come in handy when the time is needed, after using them they slowly charge back up. Everything counteracts something else and makes the game a lot deeper than you first thought when you started playing. Units can be put into box or line formation, not many options there, but the A.I. does a good job of making sure it doesn’t just sit there and get a beaten like a hung up piñata.

Controllable units aren’t the only things that are there to help support you. At the top left of the screen is icon with the ability to call in support strikes. Named Tactical Aids, the Tactical Aids ability allows you to select what type of support strike you’d like. It ranges from things like artillery strikes, air strikes, napalm bombs, and of course the trusty nuclear missile. Technically you have infinite of these, as after usage the clock counter slowly counts back up, so you can then reuse your tactical commands once you’ve gained back enough points to call in what you want. It doesn’t feel overpowering or cheap, Massive Entertainment have manage to balance it out well to make it feel just right. It becomes just as vital to use support as much as calling in reinforcements.

After you are done and dusted with the single player side of things, there’s some great multiplayer gaming to be had with World in Conflict. What’s better is that the multiplayer is superior to the single player, and that’s no mean feat. Multiplayer allows up to 16 players duelling it out, mainly with teams of eight vs. eight. Even better is that you don’t even have to wait for everyone to start the game, someone can join mid game and start fighting straight away. The game was certainly made with the idea of always being in the action. Since the game doesn’t need any building to start off with, you can get your first lot of reinforcements sent in and you are ready to go. It’s that fast and easy to get into combat. If you aren’t that good at it, it doesn’t matter, you can still have fun because if your units are destroyed, you can just get some more after your reinforcement points build up, obviously if the rest of your team mates are dying, then it’s going to be game over, but hopefully someone is tucked away surviving for you. Communication with team mates can be with microphone or in-game build menu.

Another thing you don’t normally see in RTS games is the ability to form clans. Clans are usually associated with first person shooters, but not this time. The game features a decent clan management system, plus tournament modes for such the occasion. The game is even featuring at the 2007 Cyberathlete Professional League. Overall the multi is fantastic and even if you can’t win, it’s a blast just to have been in the match, it’s a game where winning doesn’t theoretically mean you had the most fun, there’s joy to be had for everyone.

World in Conflict is a fantastic RTS. It’s a great game in general that even people who don’t normally enjoy RTS games will like. Removing all the slow and often boring parts of RTS games helps bring in new people to the genre. It doesn’t do anything revolutionary, but takes all the good things about the genre, gets a bottle of Mr. Shine and polishes it up very well. The end results come together to make a game that not only plays great, but looks lovely too. Every type of gamer should try Massive Entertainments biggest achievement in their RTS catalogue of game history.

A nuclear blast of a game.

9 out of 10
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